Solid pitching from Howard sophomore Sam Hobert (four hits allowed) combined with a flawless defense and a five-run outburst in the sixth inning helped the Lions (16-5) to a 6-1 victory over host Catonsville (15-5) in the Class 4A North Section I softball semifinals.
Howard’s Becky Merson had an RBI single in the top of the second and Catonsville’s Maddie Sampson blasted a homer in the bottom of the inning and the score stayed tied until the Lions plated the go-ahead run on an RBI single by freshman Kaylee Delossantos, who was promoted from JV.
Sophie Morton hit a three-run double for insurance after Paige Eakes (3-for-3) was intentionally walked.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever been walked intentionally in my career, so I was really surprised, but Sophie can hit for days, so I knew something would happen. I knew it was either going over or going through a gap, so I was really happy to see her come through,” Eakes said.
Morton was the cleanup hitter, but Catonsville coach Steve McCleary didn’t want third batter Eakes to get a look in that situation.
“I thought I can’t knowingly let Paige beat us, plus I’ve got to give us every opportunity, with two outs, we’ve got everything we can possibly get an out on,” McCleary said. “I know what Paige can do. I really didn’t know the other kid, to be honest with you, so I thought, let’s try and walk her.”
Nobody really knew what Delossantos could do because of her limited varsity experience, but Howard coach Chuck Rice had a hunch when she came up as a pinch hitter after Emily Polimeni had reached on a one-out walk and Merson moved her to third with a bloop single to right-center field.
Delossantos dropped a perfectly-placed blooper inside the right-field line and scored Polimeni with the go-ahead run.
“As soon as that ball went up in the air, I said ‘Oh no that one,’ You just knew it was going to be that one in no man’s land, nothing you can do about that ball,” McCleary said.
Pinch runner Erin Gorschboth, also promoted from JV, advanced to third, and she scored on a ground out by Lindsey Smith, making it 3-1.
“She (Delossantos) has been seeing the ball well, so we brought up her and the pinch runner (Gorschboth) and they are ninth graders and they played JV ball,” Rice said. “They were quality ballplayers, they should have been up here at first, but I don’t have any room.”
An error was followed by the intentional walk to Eakes and Morton’s three-run double ended the scoring.
Besides the homer by Sampson, the Comets only other hits came from Deanna Delaney, leading off the game, and Megan McDaniel, who singled in the fifth and doubled in the seventh.
“We really trust our defense and we work on it a lot, so we know our defense is going to come through and none of our pitchers are going to go out and strike everybody out and we know that. So we take a lot of pride in what our defense can do and we don’t take them for granted,” Eakes said.
Catonsville’s McCleary also praised the Lions’ defense.
“Their outfield played really well,” McCleary said. “They didn’t make a lot of spectacular plays, but they made all the plays they had to make.”
Catonsville didn’t make a lot of fielding gems, but they did get one from sophomore catcher Devyn Tracey, who exploded from behind the plate and raced 10 yards to make a diving catch after a short pop up by Polimeni in the seventh inning.
The game ended the career of the Comets only senior, Erin Kreis, who came in to pitch in relief and retired the final four batters.
Sophomore Sammy Sisolak started and yielded eight hits and three earned runs, while striking out four.
Hobert had three strikeouts in the first inning and finished with four, while allowing four walks.
“Sam didn’t hit her spots midway through the game, something wasn’t working, but then she felt when I went out there I think what it was, I was doing some things different on my end and not causing her to get into a rhythm and that was a big thing right there,” said Rice, who didn’t relax until the Lions scored their five runs. “It was a nail-biter, one inning, we hit and we played defense.”